Who needs music writing anyway, isn’t this headline all we really want? To know that Eminem is big on Donkey Kong and Kimye is pregnant, isn’t that enough? People are supposedly concerned with what’s “happening” to music writing but I don’t know. Other than writers and publishers, who really gives a shit? The writing and the subject matter are pretty much the same, at least if I recall back to ’99 or so. Although you can probably make arguments about voice, like what Simon Reynolds discusses here:
Various other approaches have taken over from the “big claims” approach, while still retaining a vague aura of seriousness. One that has become widespread is a formalist, close description mode that is scrupulous and takes a lot of care but shies away from claims of big and wide significance (wide meaning here an assumption that it’s of interest to the general public). A critic using this approach will discuss the piece of music as a unit of pleasure, or in terms of its success or achievement within the terms of its genre; but it won’t judge the terms themselves, or move to a larger argument about what music is worth or what its purpose is. You’re not supposed to dismiss whole genres of music, or be overly partisan and patriotic about one in particular. You might prefer certain genres but you don’t assume there’s significance to that preference. Ideally you’d be open to the competing pleasures and formal achievement of as many genres as you can. You avoid the first person plural, the “we” of rockist discourse, and see the breakdown of the monoculture (which increasingly is felt never to have existed, to have been a myth) as a positive development.
So yeah, is the approach of professional music critics more formalist these days? Probably. But the most significant change is likely an economic one. The distribution model has effectively loosened the grip of corporate intermediaries. Eminem tweeted about his Donkey Kong score in ’09 and then Rolling Stone wrote further about it in ’10 and tried to make it sound oh so meaningful.
The bad guy in The King of Kong is named Billy Mitchell, a loudmouthed jerk not entirely unlike a certain white rapper. Cocky and snide, he’s an ideal dramatic foil for the sweet, modest family man Wiebe. “It’s a perfect contrast,” Eminem says of the pairing. “A hero and a villain.” Just which of those two he himself wants to be is one of the many things Eminem is trying to figure out.
I faintly might remember his screenshot tweet but that’s it. But it just so happens that now this personality trait is more interesting to me ’cause I’ve had a chance to see bits and pieces of King Of Kong. Ok, I know I’m being sarcastic and jerkish but think about it, if your friend plays video games, would you be ok just hearing it from her or would you need some kind of interpretive contextualization? And let’s say you had a third friend and all they did was try to explain your mutual friend’s habits? What kind of friends are we looking for? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading. I do it all the time and I probably consume lots more longread music writing than most, but there’s something about this underlying sense of moral panic that just doesn’t sit well with me. If anything I get the sense that in order to be a writer nowadays you have less of a chance to network up. I hope you got some good shit to say. And if you do, likely you’ll have an audience, in me anyway. Link
If the first tweet was a surprise, this one was downright shocking. 272,300 is a great score, but 465,800 is no less than world class—close to the top 20 on the Twin Galaxies leaderboard (though, to be fair, the true elite scores in the top 10 are more than double this).
Patrick Scott Patterson, writing for Examiner.com, proposed that readers and Eminem fans should urge the star to make an official submission, but one was not forthcoming.
In November 2010, a Rolling Stone cover story interview with Eminem shed more light on the basis of his Donkey Kong fixation, and on his goals: